Breaking news World news Thu, 22 Feb 2018 22:50:20 +0600 60 Turkey commemorates 66 years of NATO membership NATO's Turkey parliamentary assembly head on Sunday marked 66 years of being part of the military alliance.

Ahmet Berat Conkar said it was important to develop "dialogue and co-operation in order to eliminate threats and turn challenges into opportunities".

"We need to work harder than ever to equip NATO with the right perspective and adequate capability that its global duties require," he added in a statement.

Conkar called on NATO and its allies to support Turkey's fight against terror organizations.

Without naming any country or terror groups, he stressed that some of Turkey's allies were supporting and working with terror groups. "To give terrorist organizations international legitimacy is neither compatible with NATO values ​​nor its spirit."

He reiterated Turkey's determination towards supporting "world peace, stability and security".


Mon, 19 Feb 2018 09:30:09 +0600
Iran plane crashes into mountain, killing all 66 aboard TEHRAN, Iran — A commercial plane crashed on Sunday in a foggy, mountainous region of Iran, killing all 66 people on board, the state news media reported.

The Iran Aseman Airlines plane went down near its destination, the city of Yasuj, about 485 miles south of the capital, Tehran.

Mohammad Taghi Tabatabai, a spokesman for Aseman Airlines, told state television that everyone aboard the ATR-72, a twin-engine turboprop used for short-distance regional flights, had been killed.

It was carrying 60 passengers, including one child, and six crew members, according to The Associated Press.

The cause of the crash was not immediately clear.

The Iranian Red Crescent said it had deployed people to the area, and the authorities said they would be investigating.

The fog prevented rescue helicopters from reaching the site in the Zagros Mountains, state TV reported. Mr. Tabatabai said the plane had crashed into Mount Dena, which has an elevation of about 14,500 feet.

News reports said the plane disappeared from radar screens 50 minutes after taking off from Mehrabad International Airport in western Tehran, which mainly serves domestic flights although it also has some international routes.

Under decades of international sanctions, Iran’s commercial passenger aircraft fleet has aged, with accidents occurring regularly in recent years.

The sanctions have prevented the oil-rich country from updating its fleet, forcing it to use substandard Russian planes and to patch up older jets far past their normal years of service, drawing on spare parts bought with increasing difficulty on the black market. Most Iranian planes, including the 727, are forbidden to operate within the European Union.

In 2014, a locally built Iranian passenger plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Mehrabad airport, killing 39 people and reviving questions about the safety of an aviation sector left hobbled by international sanctions.

The plane was based on a relatively obscure Ukrainian design that had been involved in previous Iranian air disasters. The Sepahan Air regional airliner, bound for Tabas in eastern Iran, went down in a residential area shortly after takeoff at 9:20 a.m.

In November 2006, an Iranian military plane crashed at Mehrabad airport, killing all 38 people on board, including 35 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, state television reported.

The Antonov 74 aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff, the director of the airport said. The plane had been headed to Shiraz in the south of Iran.

Earlier that year, a plane carrying 147 passengers caught fire while landing in northeastern Iran, killing 29 of the 148 people on board and injuring 47, state-run television reported.

The plane, a Russian-made Tupolev-154, apparently blew a tire while landing in Mashhad, slipped off the runway and burst into flames, the governor of Khorasan Province said.

After the landmark nuclear deal with world powers in 2015, Iran signed deals with Airbus and Boeing to buy scores of passenger planes.

The ATR 72 involved in the crash on Sunday, a French-Italian short-haul aircraft, was introduced in the late 1980s. The Aseman Airlines fleet’s aircraft were delivered from 1993 to 2009.

Aseman Airlines is a semiprivate carrier based in Tehran that specializes in flights to remote airfields across the country. It also flies internationally.


Sun, 18 Feb 2018 22:30:07 +0600
China’s ‘Ice Boy’ village has more to celebrate this Lunar New Year, but grinding poverty will not be easy to fix There is more to celebrate this Lunar New Year in the snowy, remote village of Zhuanshanbao in the mountains of southwestern China’s Yunnan province.

As villagers gather for the Spring Festival, some children are wearing newer, warmer winter clothes, have shiny new toys to play with and can enjoy confectionery.

But such donations, prompted by a photograph of a frost-covered village schoolboy that became an internet sensation last month, are likely to offer only temporary relief for the deep-seated problems that have left the village, in Ludian county, mired in poverty for decades.

And that poses a challenge to President Xi Jinping’s pledge to eradicate poverty in China by 2020.

In a yellow mud house in a clearing among snow-covered fir trees, eight-year-old Wang Fuman sits in a thick, navy, velvet jacket that is cosier than the light brown coat he was wearing weeks ago when he arrived at school with frost in his hair and eyelashes.

Stretched out on a ragged cloth sofa, Fuman is engrossed in a colourful children’s book, 100,000 Whys. Beside him, his sister Fumei, 10, in a pink overcoat, caresses the family cat.

The children received the clothes and book as gifts after Fuman’s photo was widely shared online last month.

A teacher had photographed the third-grader after he arrived at school following a 90-minute trek from home along treacherous mountain paths and shared the picture on social media. Internet users nicknamed him “Ice Boy”.

The unexpected fame brought a flood of donations to Fuman’s village, 60km (37 miles) from the city of Zhaotong in the poorest part of Yunnan, itself one of China’s least well-off provinces.

Fuman’s family has received 8,000 yuan (US$1,270) in cash on top of new clothes, books and toys, but other village families have also benefited from his new-found fame.

Each child attending the village school was given 500 yuan to take home after it received 100,000 yuan from the Communist Youth League, and other donors have offered individual families cash and everyday items.

Fuman and Fumei said they were especially looking forward to the family’s Spring Festival dinner this year, as the extra cash meant they would be able to afford some Chinese cabbage and meat – a rarity compared with the potatoes and plain rice they have for every meal.

‘Come back to scold me, mum’: China’s ‘Ice Boy’ Wang Fuman’s Lunar New Year wish

Zhuanshanbao’s villagers subsist on home-grown crops – potatoes, oats and buckwheat. It is difficult to grow other crops in the harsh environment, 3,000 metres (9,840 feet) above sea level, and their agricultural output is barely enough for their own consumption.

Fuman said food was so scarce that he often could not bring himself to eat the free slice of bread he received in school every morning.

“Sometimes I save the bread I get from school for my grandma,” he said. “I bring it home for her to eat because she works so hard every day.”

The villagers make a living by rearing cows and pigs, which they consider too valuable to eat themselves. They sell the livestock for cash to buy the rice that makes up the bulk of their two meals a day.

Households in the village earn between 4,000 to 5,000 yuan a year. That compares with a per capita disposable income across China’s rural areas of 12,363 yuan in 2016, according to the national bureau of statistics, and an urban per capita disposable income of 33,616 yuan.

For a shot at a better life, many young adults leave Zhuanshanbao, bound for Kunming, the provincial capital, or other big cities across China.

Fuman’s father, Wang Gangkui, worked at a construction site in Kunming until last month when he was offered a job in Zhaotong, only two hours away by bus, after his son’s photo went viral.

Wang, 29, took home 3,000 yuan a month from the job in Kunming, but that was barely enough to support his four dependents: Fuman, his 10-year-old sister Fumei, Wang’s 16-year-old brother and his elderly mother. His wife left them two years ago after growing weary of their daily struggle with poverty.

Why Xi Jinping cares so much about ending poverty in China: the political significance behind the campaign

“I am so grateful for all the help and kindness that society has shown us,” Wang told the South China Morning Post in his home. “I am so thankful for this new job because now I can come home every three to five days and check on my children’s academic performance.”

Two minutes’ walk from Fuman’s home, neighbour and mother-of-three Jiang Zhonghui said her family had received 1,300 yuan in donations since Fuman’s photo went viral.

Volunteers also visited her home recently, giving her children 100 yuan each and a pile of new clothes.

“I was out that day. When I returned home in the evening, my daughter told me a woman came and called her ‘baby’. She also gave her confectionery,” Jiang said. “My children were all elated with their gifts.”

But villagers said Wang’s family was not even the poorest in Zhuanshanbao, and local official’s told The Paper, a mainland news website, its living standard was above average for the village.

The six-member Chen family, which appeared among the poorest in the village, said they had not benefited from Fuman’s fame.

Volunteers had not visited their home, a 10-minute walk from Fuman’s house, a disappointed Chen Renzhen said.

“My son didn’t get the 500 yuan from the school either, because he dropped out last October after he got injured in the face from a fight with his friends,” she said. “We didn’t receive any benefits.”

An elderly villager guarding the entrance to Fuman’s school said he was not surprised many people had been neglected, despite the outpouring of donations the media attention had brought.

One of 60 million: life as a ‘left-behind’ child in China

“Fuman’s family isn’t even the poorest in the village,” he said with a shrug. “And there are dozens of other pupils who walk a far longer distance to school every day than he does. Many children take double the time Fuman takes to get to school.

“His situation is just too common in our village.”

However, Jiang said Fuman’s fame had benefited the whole village, with the media attention prompting the authorities to order the local power company to finally connect electricity to new, government-subsidised houses.

The building of the new houses was commissioned by the local authorities in a bid to move families in the isolated village closer to road access.

Zhuanshanbao had been isolated from the outside world for decades until early last year, when a concrete road was built to connect the village to the nearest town, Xinjie. Some of the villagers’ old mud houses are about an hour’s walk from the new road, while the new houses are much closer.

The authorities gave each household 40,000 yuan to subsidise the building of the new houses, but Wang’s house cost 140,000 yuan – putting him in 70,000 yuan debt after he spent 30,000 yuan of his life savings.

The house has no door or windows, and he cannot afford to furnish it. “I don’t have money to decorate it, so we can’t move to my new house,” Wang said.

Chinese leaders identify top three economic battles: risk, poverty and pollution

Ludian is one of China’s 600 or so state-recognised “poverty counties”, of which there are 88 in Yunnan alone. Some 4.47 million people in the province live below the poverty line – meaning their per capita income is less than 2,300 yuan a year, Farmers’ Daily, a newspaper affiliated with the Ministry of Agriculture, reported in October.

“It’s an uphill battle for Yunnan to wipe out poverty,” provincial party secretary Chen Hao was quoted as saying in the report. “There are 27 counties and 3,539 villages in Yunnan classified as living in extreme poverty … there are various reasons for destitution and it’s very difficult for all these places to eradicate poverty.”

Liu Yongfu, director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, said last year that more than 55.6 million rural residents who used to have an annual income of less than 2,300 yuan had been “lifted out of poverty” since 2012 and another 10 million were expected to make the transition in 2017.

But there were six provinces where there were more than 3 million people below the poverty line and nearly 30,000 villages where at least 20 per cent of the population were deemed impoverished.

Professor Wang Sangui, who studies rural affairs at Beijing’s Renmin University, said important indicators to measure if a farmer was living in poverty were whether he was worried about food or clothing, whether his family had access to compulsory education and basic medical service and whether he lived in a safe house.

“From Fuman’s case, in which he only has thin clothing in below freezing temperatures and can only eat potato and rice, it’s easy to tell his family is very poor,” he said.

The professor said Zhuanshanbao was a typical village in China’s mountainous west, where transport was inconvenient, the natural environment ill-suited to farming, and villagers had to leave for big cities to earn more money.

China’s ‘Ice Boy’ visits Beijing and enjoys ‘miracle’ of heating

“Reducing poverty in these regions is a truly daunting task,” he said.

Chen Huirong, an associate professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s school of international and public affairs, said Fuman’s case had exposed mainland internet users living in affluent coastal regions to the grinding poverty found elsewhere in the country.

“Xi Jinping’s poverty alleviation drive is unprecedented in China’s history,” he said. “But the status quo in Fuman’s village and other similar rural areas are big challenges for the anti-poverty goal.”

He said rural officials might try to cover up poor regions’ problem under the pressure of meeting the 2020 poverty elimination deadline.

“Local governments should think of sustainable ways in fighting poverty, instead of just giving subsidies,” Chen said.


Fri, 16 Feb 2018 17:14:14 +0600
Landmarks wear red for Chinese New Year around globe BEIJING, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- Global landmarks are celebrating the Chinese New Year by turning red, a color symbolizing good luck and happiness, as Chinese communities mark the Spring Festival around the world.

The Chinese Year of the Dog arrives on Friday, Feb. 16 this year. According to the latest release of China's State Council Information Office, the Chinese New Year was celebrated in more than 400 cities in more than 130 countries and regions this year.

The top of the Empire State Building in Midtown Manhattan, New York, one of world's most beloved attractions, is scheduled to shine in red and gold at sunset on Tuesday and Thursday to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

A window display of the Year of the Dog was also installed in the lobby windows on the Fifth Avenue.

New York State has added the Spring Festival to its list of public holidays since 2014.

In the Egyptian tourist city of Sharm el-Sheikh, the walls and trees at Hollywood Fun Park in the Red Sea resort city were garnished with red Chinese lanterns and colorful Chinese paintings to embrace a three-day celebration.

Amid joyful atmosphere of a moonlit breezy night, hundreds of Egyptians joined Chinese to watch traditional lion dance performances in the alleyways of the tourist site to celebrate the biggest festival among Chinese people. As artists performed on stage, Chinese organizers distributed gifts to members of the audience, who hailed from a variety of nationalities.

In the New Zealand's city of Auckland, Sky Tower also joined landmarks lighting for Chinese New Year. The tallest man-made structure in the country is scheduled to be lit with a gold-color base and red top from Feb. 15 to March 4.

Other landmarks including 540-meter-tall Ostankino Tower in the Russian capital Moscow, Durban City Hall in South Africa and Recife's landmark bridge in Brazil also participated in the Global Tower Lights Up project, blanketed in red for Chinese New Year.

Celebrated on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month, the Lantern Festival on March 2 this year marks the end of the Chinese New Year Spring Festival.

Numerous landmarks and attractions across Europe are set to create a bridge of light with China on March 2 and 3 by turning a shade of red.

The European pillar of the light bridge will include 30 sites in 12 EU member states, such as the Grand Place in Brussels and Belgrade Brides in Serbia, with cultural events attended by both local and Chinese communities accompanying the illumination of the landmarks in several locations.

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 11:52:06 +0600
North Korea notes ‘warm talks’ with South’s President, no mention of summit invitation North Korea’s state news agency said on Sunday its delegation sent to the Winter Olympics had held “frank and candid” talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in but there was no mention of the North’s invitation to Moon to Pyongyang for a summit.

Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of Kim Jong Un, “courteously” handed over a personal letter from the North Korean leader to Moon during talks on Saturday and also told Moon of her brother’s “intention”, KCNA said, without elaborating on what that was.

South Korean officials have said Moon was invited to Pyongyang to speak with Kim Jong Un during the talks and lunch that Moon hosted at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on Saturday.

Such a summit, if it came about, would mark the first time that leaders of the two Koreas have met since 2007. Moon has been pushing for a diplomatic solution to the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes.

Kim Jong Un wanted to meet Moon “in the near future” and would like for him to visit North Korea “at his earliest convenience”, his sister told Moon.

The South Korean leader said in response “let’s create the environment for that to be able to happen”, Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told a news briefing.

The KCNA report cited Moon as saying inter-Korean relations should be mended by the parties concerned “at any cost as indicated by Chairman Kim Jong Un in his New Year Address”.

Kim Yong Nam, the North’s nominal head of state who was also at Saturday’s meeting, said “even unexpected difficulties and ordeals could be surely overcome and the future of reunification brought earlier when having a firm will and taking courage and determination to usher in a new heyday of inter-Korean relations”.


Mon, 12 Feb 2018 16:32:42 +0600
iPhone owners who paid full price for battery may get rebate Bishkek, Feb. 8, 2018 / Kabar/. Apple says it's "exploring" offering rebates to customers who paid full price for a replacement battery to improve the performance of an older iPhone.

The tech giant noted that possibility in a letter to Sen. John Thune, in response to questions about the company's practice of slowing down older iPhones as their batteries age.

In the letter, dated Feb. 2, Apple provided a timeline of events surrounding the issue, some technical details, and answers to eight questions Thune had asked early last month. The senator is a Republican from South Dakota and chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

The last question was about whether the company had considered allowing customers who'd paid full price for a new battery "to seek a rebate for some of the purchase price." Apple said in December it would replace batteries on iPhone 6 and later models for $29. The company normally charges $79 to replace a battery for a phone not under warranty.

Responding to Thune's question, Apple said, "Yes, we are exploring this and will update you accordingly."

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Thune issued a statement Tuesday in response to Apple's letter.

"I appreciate Apple's response to my inquiry and the company's ongoing discussions with the committee," he said. "In those conversations, Apple has acknowledged that its initial disclosures came up short. Apple has also promised the committee some follow-up information, including an answer about additional steps it may take to address customers who purchased a new battery at full price."

The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are also looking into the issue.

"We have received questions from some government agencies and we are responding to them," Apple said in an emailed statement last week.


Thu, 08 Feb 2018 09:24:49 +0600
Sahara Desert town is covered in snow for the second time this year Bishkek, Feb, 7, 2018. / Kabar /. Locals were stunned to see snow on the sand dunes in the Sahara Desert yesterday - after it snowed in a small Algerian town for the second time this year, Dailymail reported.

Following a 37-year spell of no snow which ended in December 2016, Ain Sefra in the country's northwest, has seen snow no less than four times.

Children could be seen playing on the snow-covered sand dunes just outside the town, while others posed on the snow to document the rare event.

This aint snow desert! Snow covered the town of Ain Sefra in Algeria - the second time in just a few weeks

This aint snow desert! Snow covered the town of Ain Sefra in Algeria - the second time in just a few weeks

Becoming a tradition: Since December 2016, the small town in northwestern Algeria has seen snow no less than four times

Becoming a tradition: Since December 2016, the small town in northwestern Algeria has seen snow no less than four times

Do you wanna build a snowman? A young resident is making the most of the rare snowfall while playing on the sand dunes

Do you wanna build a snowman? A young resident is making the most of the rare snowfall while playing on the sand dunes

The town was seen covered with a coating of snow and many locals took to the nearby sand dunes to enjoy the unusual weather.

While Monday's snowfall was unusual, the town was covered in the white stuff last month, the third time in nearly 40 years.

In 2016, the town known as 'The Gateway to the Desert' saw deep snow shortly after Christmas and it caused chaos, with passengers stranded on buses after the roads became slippery and icy.

Come January 2017, the town saw snowfall yet again, and children made snowmen and even sledged on the sand dunes.

Climb every mountain: The heavy snowfall makes the sand dunes look like snow-covered Alpine mountains

Covered up: Despite the snow last month and this week, it is normally six to 12 degrees Celsius in the town of Ain Sefra around this time of year

Covered up: Despite the snow last month and this week, it is normally six to 12 degrees Celsius in the town of Ain Sefra around this time of year

Strike a snow-se: A local teenager poses for the camera while the snow keeps falling around him and his friend

Strike a snow-se: A local teenager poses for the camera while the snow keeps falling around him and his friend

Snowday! A child takes a tumble in the snow, exposing the red sand hidden underneath it

Snowday! A child takes a tumble in the snow, exposing the red sand hidden underneath it

Before that, snow was last seen in Ain Sefra on February 18, 1979, when the snow storm lasted just half an hour.

Ain Sefra is located around 3,280ft above sea level and surrounded by the Atlas Mountains.

Despite its altitude and recent storms, it is very rare to see snow in the town, and it is normally six to 12 degrees Celsius in the city around this time of year.

The Sahara Desert covers most of Northern Africa and it has gone through shifts in temperature and moisture over the past few hundred thousand years.

Although the Sahara is very dry today, it is expected to become green again in about 15,000 years.


Wed, 07 Feb 2018 14:56:49 +0600
Dramatic video of Abu Dhabi pile-up goes viral on social media Bishkek, Feb. 7, 2018 / Kabar/. Twenty-two people were injured, two of them critically, when dozens of vehicles collided in heavy fog outside Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, according to UAE media reports.

Dramatic footage of the incident was captured on video by commuters. The crash on the E311 road, also known as the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Road, happened about 8am local time as visibility reduced to just a few meters.

Commuters are seen leaving their cars and climbing over the barrier to escape as between 40 and 70 vehicles pile-up.
Abu Dhabi Police have blamed the crash on drivers’ failure to leave ample distance between vehicles, not obeying speed limits and disregard for safety in the foggy weather.
According to reports, the accident blocked traffic from Dubai and cars remained stuck in traffic for some time before police were able to clear the carnage.

Brigadier Khalifa Mohammed Al-Khaili, director of the traffic and patrols directorate, said there was a quick response by traffic patrols and many emergency vehicles helped in returning the road to normal.

He said: “The police had already put in place emergency plans for foggy conditions, including banning lorries and buses transporting workers from using roads during such conditions. Such vehicles were instead to wait until the roads became clear to ensure the safety of road users and avoid possible fatal accidents.”

According to UAE media reports, he added that it's "absurd" that these sort of accidents were still happening in spite of daily warnings and alert messages about fog to drivers through their social media accounts.


Wed, 07 Feb 2018 12:50:02 +0600
Japan: robots will care for 80% of elderly by 2020 Japan’s elderly are being told to get used to being looked after by robots.

With Japan’s ageing society facing a predicted shortfall of 370,000 caregivers by 2025, the government wants to increase community acceptance of technology that could help fill the gap in the nursing workforce.

Developers have focused their efforts on producing simple robotic devices that help frail residents get out of their bed and into a wheelchair, or that can ease senior citizens into bathtubs.

But the government sees a wider range of potential applications and recently revised its list of priorities to include robots that can predict when patients might need to use the toilet.

Dr Hirohisa Hirukawa, director of robot innovation research at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, said the aims included easing the burden on nursing staff and boosting the autonomy of people still living at home.

“Robotics cannot solve all of these issues; however, robotics will be able to make a contribution to some of these difficulties,” he said.

Hirukawa said lifting robotics had so far been deployed in only about 8% of nursing homes in Japan, partly because of the cost and partly because of the “the mindset by the people on the frontline of caregiving that after all it must be human beings who provide this kind of care”.

He added: “On the side of those who receive care, of course initially there will be psychological resistance.”

Hirukawa’s research centre has worked on a government-backed project to help 98 manufacturers test nursing-care robotic devices over the past five years, 15 of which have been developed into commercial products.

In the interests of lowering cost and complexity, these types of robots do not yet resemble humans or talk to users, but deploy smart technology to help people in specific situations.

One example is an electric-boosted mobility aid that a person can hold onto when walking around city streets.

The sensors detect if the user is going uphill and a booster function is activated. When the walker is detected going downhill, an automatic brake kicks in to reduce falls.

“In Japan we already have motor-supported bicycles so it is like a version of an assist for walking,” Hirukawa said during a demonstration at the Foreign Press Center Japan.

The next research priorities include wearable mobility aid devices and technology that guides people to the toilet at what it predicts is the right time.

According to Japan’s robot strategy, the government hopes that four in five care recipients accept having some support provided by robots by 2020.


Tue, 06 Feb 2018 23:06:25 +0600
We're Never Going To 'Win' In Afghanistan Heaven knows, even if our politicians and generals don’t, that while we haven’t conclusively lost the war in Afghanistan, we surely haven’t won it. And if we haven’t won the war by now, we’re surely not going to. This fact was hammered home— not for the first time— late last month. In four attacks over just nine days, more than 130 people were killed by terrorists. Some by the Taliban, some by ISIS. As if it matters.

They struck inside Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel. They struck at an Afghan military complex. They struck in Save The Children’s offices in Jalalabad. And in the most lethal of the attacks, they struck with a bomb-packed ambulance inside Kabul’s “ring of steel,” supposedly the most secure sector of the city.

But “most secure” in Afghanistan is only relative. Neither the capital, nor the population nor the government is secure. Nor is the U.S. mission, whatever it actually is today. That is the terrorists’ intent: to prove that nothing is secure, even after 16-plus years of costly American efforts— with a 100,000 troops there at the peak— to exterminate the terrorists and pacify the nation.

Who knows what President Donald Trump might have said about Afghanistan in his State of the Union if not for those four murderous attacks, right on the eve of his address? As it turned out, even though the president is shoring the U.S. force back up to about 15,000 troops, America’s longest and currently its biggest war rated just 34 words. Stirring platitudes about “our warriors in Afghanistan” and “their heroic Afghan partners,” but none that actually pointed toward victory. That’s because victory is no closer now than it was at the outset. Yet few in Washington are talking about bringing those troops home.

They ought to examine the evidence instead of their egos. It is there, for all the world to see.

Afghan security forces look on as smoke rises from the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul on Jan. 21, 2018. (Omar Sobhani / Reuters)

Exhibit A is our own history of the last 16 years, a history of mission creep. Our original purpose was noble, and necessary: we attacked in 2001 to rid Afghanistan of the vermin who attacked us on Sept. 11. The aim? Annihilate the Taliban who were hosting al-Qaeda and leave Osama bin Laden’s soldiers without the safe haven from which they had planned their attacks. But that mission has long ago come and gone. The latest intelligence concludes that terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS now have safe havens in parts of more than two dozen countries on several continents. Whatever we eventually might accomplish in Afghanistan is utterly moot.

Exhibit B is what we should have learned in earlier wars about alien terrain: no matter how smart we are and how strong we feel, when we’re fighting in the enemy’s neighborhood, he has the advantage. That helps explain why we didn’t win in Vietnam or Iraq. Fighters from the region know every nook and cranny and where to hide, and they have allies around every corner. That is something basic training at Fort Benning can’t equal.

Exhibit C is what we should have learned in earlier wars about counterfeit confidence, which conjures up shades of Vietnam: “Peace is at hand” (except it wasn’t). And shades of Iraq: “Mission accomplished” (except it wasn’t). Now it’s President Trump saying of Afghanistan, “What nobody else has been able to finish, we’re going to be able to do it.” And, in the wake of last month’s terrorist attacks, reporters asked the general who leads the U.S. Central Command if victory in Afghanistan is still a possibility. Gen. Joseph Votel’s chillingly predictable answer? “Absolutely, absolutely.” Trouble is, previous presidents and previous commanding generals have been telling us that for 16 years now.

And Exhibit D is simply Afghanistan’s anything-but-simple history. It has been invaded time and time again, beginning before the birth of Christ with Alexander the Great. Then Arabs, Mongols, the British, the Soviets. All swept through and for the most part, all were swept away. Now, with more than 2,200 American deaths already, it’s our turn.

The most recent attempt, by the Soviets in 1979, was an episode I covered as a reporter with my own eyes. Within days on the ground it became obvious that, for all the superior military force of the invaders, it would never be as potent as the fervent resistance of the mujahideen. The longer the war went on, the more determined I saw the Afghan fighters become to expel every last one of the occupying forces from their country.

The Taliban today are similar. They are tough, they are vicious, and they can bide their time. Like ISIS in other parts of the world, they don’t have to hold territory to win. They just have to hold a nation in the grips of their terror. The more than 130 people killed late last month are only the latest piece of proof that it works.

We’ve been fighting there for almost a generation. While we haven’t lost, we also haven’t won. And positive public pronouncements notwithstanding, there’s no convincing sign that we ever will.

Greg Dobbs is a former Emmy Award-winning correspondent who covered news in more than 80 countries for two television networks, the author of two books, and a former op-ed columnist for The Denver Post.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

Mon, 05 Feb 2018 18:19:37 +0600
Azerbaijan announces snap presidential elections - six months ahead of schedule Bishkek, Feb, 5, 2018 / Kabar/. The president of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has called a snap presidential election, local media reported. The country was initially set to hold a presidential election in October 17, but his office announced on Monday that an early election would be held in April, six months ahead of schedule. Aliyev's office did not immediately explain the move, reported.

Ilham Aliyev, who has ruled Azerbaijan since 2003, was earlier nominated as the ruling New Azerbaijan Party's candidate for the election for what would be his fourth term.

To note, in 2009, Aliyev changed the country's constitution so that he could run for an unlimited number of presidential terms, in a move criticized by rights advocates and the opposition.

Mon, 05 Feb 2018 17:04:48 +0600
Russian cosmonauts begin seven-hour spacewalk from ISS Bishkek, Feb. 4, 2018. /Kabar/. Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov have begun this year’s first spacewalk from the International Space Station (ISS), a spokesman for the mission control center told TASS on Friday.

"The hatches of the Pirs service module opened at 18:35 Moscow time and the cosmonauts began a spacewalk. Their extravehicular activity will last for about seven hours," the spokesman said.

Russia’s state space corporation Roscosmos said earlier that the cosmonauts were tasked to dismantle the old module to mount new receivers onto the Zvezda module’s antenna to make it possible to get in touch with Earth via Russian Luch system satellites. Currently, the Russian segment of the ISS is using NASA’s retransmission system when the ISS is out of direct visibility from Russia’s territory.

Shkaplerov told TASS earlier that the Zvezda module didn't have to be changed under the initial plan. He said that the spacewalk was going to be an uneasy task as the cosmonauts, dressed in spacesuits, were to untighten dozens of bolts. More to it, in his, words, no one had ever worked at that place. He said that three types of instruments had been developed especially for this mission.

Alexander Misurkin is wearing a newly developed Orlan-MKS computerized spacesuit equipped with an automated temperature control system and a new pressurization layer. Anton Shkaplerov is wearing a spacesuit of the previous modification, Orlan-MS. It is Misukrin’s fourth spacewalk and the second one for Shkaplerov.

Sun, 04 Feb 2018 17:03:25 +0600
Afghanistan home to 7,000 Islamic State fighters, Russian diplomat says Bishkek, Feb. 2, 2018. /Kabar/.Some 7,000 fighters and thousands of reservists of the Islamic State terror group (outlawed in Russia) currently reside in Afghanistan, TASS reported referring to Russian special presidential envoy and director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Second Asia Department Zamir Kabulov as syaing on Thursday.

"We have been carefully monitoring the genesis of the Afghan wing of ISIL (former name of the IS group) over the past three years…The IS has nearly 7,000 active fighters, without taking into account several thousand of reservists," Kabulov told the Rossiya-24 TV channel. The Taliban fighters’ number in Afghanistan currently stands at around 60,000 or 70,000, he noted.

The Afghan government and the foreign troops stay idle on detecting the IS reservists, the diplomat said.

"This is a serious case. The IS members have come to Afghanistan not for Jihad against the US and other foreign troops, they have come to set up a foothold for their further expansion to the north, to Central Asia," he said, noting that most IS group’s fighters in Afghanistan come from Central Asia or Russia.

Fri, 02 Feb 2018 12:53:13 +0600
China’s ‘Ice Boy’ is amazed after experiencing central heating for the first time Fang Fuman became a mini-celebrity overnight after the picture of his frozen hair went viral around the world. But his story revealed a sad reality as the eight-year-old has to walk more than four kilometres in -9C temperatures to get to school every day.

After becoming an internet sensation, the kid told Chinese media that he was keen to go to the capital to see how students live.

Credit: AsiaWire
Credit: AsiaWire

According to Medium, his wish was granted and he was whisked off to Beijing, which was the first time he had ever left his village.

During his time in the busy capital, he got to visit the People's Public Security University of China as he wants to become a police officer when he grows up. He was able to meet with instructors who gave him a tip or two about how to follow that dream.

While life in Beijing is obviously very different to his small village, there was one thing that genuinely baffled the kid: central heating.Credit: AsiaWire
Credit: AsiaWire

Wang told a press conference: "It's very cold at home, but very warm in Beijing. At home, we have to burn charcoal at night for warmth. In Beijing, the rooms are so warm   I only need to wear one layer of clothing. This is the first time I've come across heating, it really is a miracle."

The student was interested to see whether other kids in the capital have to walk as far as he did to school every day. (Hint: that's a big ol' no.)

He also said he was overwhelmed with the outpouring of support that came after his photos went viral. China Ntional Radio says 300,000 yuan (£33,690/$46,638) was raised by the public in just five days.

Credit: AsiaWire
Credit: AsiaWire
Credit: AsiaWire
Credit: AsiaWire

The broadcaster revealed that the eight-year-old had only received 8,000 yuan (£898/$1,243) of that total amount - with the rest of the cash spread out to other kids in the region so that they can benefit from Wang's fame.

Despite this, the young student said: "I'm very grateful for all of your support. When I grow up, I will pay you all back."

He lives with his sister and grandma in a small hut in rural Yunnan. His mum reportedly has left the family and his dad only visits once or twice a year as he's a migrant worker. But ever since the 'Ice Boy' pictures circulated the internet, his dad reportedly was able to move back home after scoring a job close by.

Sources: Medium, China National Radio

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 19:29:46 +0600
Indonesian authorities run 'two-faced' car off the road A double-ended car owned by a septuagenarian mechanic from Indonesia has been ordered off the road, but he has not given up on the quirky creation just yet.

Roni Gunawan built the "two-faced" car with the help of colleagues in Bandung, West Java province, by welding together the front halves of two orange Toyota Limos.

The head-turning vehicle -- which took about three-and-a-half months to build -- has two engines, two steering wheels and two sets of pedals.

Its dual features make it particularly easy to park, Gunawan told AFP.

But the 71-year-old's dream has hit a serious speed bump: local authorities have ticketed him, saying he lacks the necessary permits for the modifications.

Despite the setback, Gunawan has vowed to get the vehicle roadworthy so it can see another day.

"I will not be making a second," he said. "It's new in Indonesia -- two faces, two machines."


Sat, 03 Feb 2018 16:36:07 +0600
Chinese scientists clone world' s first macaques China on Thursday announced it successfully cloned world' s first macaques from somatic cells by the method that made Dolly. It makes research with customizable populations of genetically uniform monkeys a possibility, Xinhua reports.

The two cloned macaques, named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, were produced at the non-human-primate research facility under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) at the end of 2017. A third is due this month and more this year, said scientists.

The initial research was published on the website of the scientific journal, Cell.

Since Dolly the sheep was successfully cloned from an adult cell in 1997, other mammals have also been cloned, but macaques, which are closely related to humans, have been a challenge.

Sun Qiang, director of the CAS non-human-primate research facility, led a group of researchers for three years to overcome the biological difficulties.

Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua are the product of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), the technique used to create Dolly the sheep over 20 years ago.

Researchers edited genes in vitro and accurately sifted and produced somatic cells with the same genotype. They removed the nucleus from an egg cell and replaced it with another nucleus from differentiated body cells.

The reconstructed eggs produced embryos, which were put into the wombs of surrogate female monkeys, producing a group of cloned monkeys with the same genetic background.

The first author Liu Zhen, a postdoctoral fellow, spent three years practicing and optimizing the SCNT procedure. He tested various methods to quickly and precisely remove the nuclear materials from the egg cell and promote the fusion of the nucleus-donor cell and enucleated egg.

"The SCNT procedure is rather delicate, so the faster you do it, the less damage to the egg you have, and Dr. Liu has a green thumb for doing this," said Sun.

This success means China will pioneer in disease and brain science research by taking cloned macaques as animal models, said Muming Poo, a co-author on the study who directs the Institute of Neuroscience of CAS Center for Excellence in Brain Science and Intelligence Technology.

"This is a key development in studying primate biology and making models of non-human primates," said Bai Chunli, president of the CAS.

The models designed for brain diseases will shed light on their study, intervention and even treatments.

At present, the lack of treatments for most brain diseases can be attributed to the fact that the mice widely used in labs have a noticeable gap with humans in genome types. Medicines coming out of the labs are often inefficacious or cause side-effects. But cloned monkey models will make a difference.

Researchers agree that primate research models have a major role to play in many fields. "For the Ebola virus, therapies based on monkey model studies have proved effective and the ongoing study of the Zika virus could prove similar," said Poo.

China has listed the brain science program as a key project for the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020) and is working to become a world leader in primate research.

Central and local governments have supported the development of high-tech primate facilities in cities like Suzhou, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, and Kunming over the past decade.

The cloned monkey models will advance non-human primate model making in China, said Poo. In future, China will be a hub for pharmaceutical research centers where companies will test new treatments for brain diseases, immunodeficiency or tumors on non-human primate models.

"We plan to produce more cloned monkeys designed for gene-related brain diseases, such as the Alzheimer' s, Parkinson's disease, and autism. It will give us an international edge in the research of primate brains," Poo added.

The clone babies are currently bottle-fed and are growing normally compared to monkeys their age. The lab is following strict international guidelines for animal research set by the US National Institutes of Health.

"We are very aware that future research using non-human primates anywhere in the world depends on scientists following very strict ethical standards. That' s why cloned monkey models are valuable, but production also needs monitoring," said Poo. "Any abusive use could cause trouble."

Fri, 26 Jan 2018 10:54:23 +0600
Ex-USA Gymnastics doctor sentenced to 175 years for sexual abuse The disgraced long-time USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced on Wednesday to up to 175 years in prison for molesting young female gymnasts, following days of wrenching testimony in a Michigan courtroom from about 160 of his victims, including Olympic gold medalists.

"I just signed your death warrant," Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina told Nassar in imposing the penalty, after delivering a searing rebuke of his years of abuse.

"It is my honor and privilege to sentence you because you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again."

Some victims dabbed their eyes after Aquilina spoke, although the audience obeyed the judge's instruction to remain quiet following her pronouncement.

Nassar, 54, pleaded guilty in November to seven counts of first-degree sex assault in Ingham County, as well as three additional charges in Eaton County, where he will be sentenced next week. He is already serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for child pornography convictions.

Before the sentence was announced, Nassar apologized to his victims, telling them, "I will carry your words with me for the rest of my days."

But Aquilina angrily dismissed his statement as insincere, reading aloud from a letter Nassar wrote to her in which he claimed he was a "good doctor" who was "manipulated" into pleading guilty, drawing gasps from the courtroom.

In the wake of the verdict, Michigan lawmakers voted overwhelmingly for a resolution seeking the ouster of Michigan State University's president, over allegations that the school missed chances to stop Nassar from sexually assaulting girls and women.

The state House approved the nonbinding measure hours after Nassar was sentenced Wednesday. Nassar worked at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

The resolution says legislators have "lost confidence" in President Lou Anna Simon's ability to lead a transparent investigation, to implement changes, to protect students and to lead the university. It calls for her to resign or be fired by Michigan State's governing board.

The board so far has stood behind Simon, while awaiting a review by Michigan's attorney general.

Source: SNBC

--The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Thu, 25 Jan 2018 18:33:38 +0600
China says US warship violated sovereignty near Scarborough Bishkek, Jan.21, 2018 /Kabar/. The Chinese government on Saturday accused the U.S. of trespassing in its territorial waters when a U.S. guided missile destroyer sailed near a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, reported Associated Press.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China would take "necessary measures" to protect its sovereignty after the USS Hopper sailed within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Shoal on Wednesday evening without China's permission.

Scarborough is a tiny, uninhabited reef. Known in Chinese as Huangyan Island, it lies about 200 kilometers (120 miles) west of the main Philippine island of Luzon, and about 600 kilometers (370 miles) southeast of China, reports the agency.

Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said a Chinese missile frigate moved to identify and verify the U.S. vessel and warned it to leave the area.

"We hope that the U.S. respects China's sovereignty, respects the efforts by regional countries and do not make trouble out of nothing," Wu said in a statement on the ministry's website.

The South China Sea has crucial shipping lanes, rich fishing grounds and potential oil, gas and other mineral deposits.

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and has carried out extensive land reclamation work on many of the islands and reefs it claims, equipping some with air strips and military installations.

The United States does not claim territory in the South China Sea but has declared it has a national interest in ensuring that the territorial disputes there are resolved peacefully in accordance with international law.

The Navy regularly sails through the area to assert freedom of navigation.

"The United States conducts routine and regular FONOPs, as we have done in the past and will continue to do so in the future," Lt. Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet, said after China's claim. FONOP is the military's term for freedom of navigation operations.

She said such operations are "not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements." Instead they aim to "demonstrate our commitment to uphold the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law."

Sun, 21 Jan 2018 18:21:50 +0600
China has the power to reshape the world Martin Jacques (File photo)

At the beginning of 2018, uncertainty dominated the outlook for the future.

As we can now see with great clarity, the Western financial crisis of 2007 to 2008 proved the most important turning point in the West since 1945.

For a decade, the Western economies have been mired in varying degrees of stagnation, not least with regard to living standards. And it was the Great Recession that led to the Great Populist Uprising in 2016.

The latter signaled the end of the hegemony of neo-liberalism in the West, which began in 1980 with the arrival of Reagan and Thatcher and was characterized by hyper-globalization, privatization and a huge growth in inequality.

The uprising was driven by large swathes of the population in both the US and Britain whose living standards had more or less stagnated for four decades. It was a popular revolt against the governing elites by those who felt left behind and who held these elites responsible for their deteriorating situation. Politically the new mood was articulated most clearly, though not solely, by the right, notably Trump in America and the Brexiteers in the UK.

Sino-US ties become more important with China's rise

While 2017 did not witness anything as dramatic as 2016, we also were not witness to any kind of reversal. On the contrary, Trump, far from retreating from his election campaign rhetoric, has essentially been true to it: ditching TPP, TTIP, threatening to do the same with NAFTA, distancing himself from Europe and adopting a belligerent tone towards it, building the wall on the border with Mexico and much else.

The obvious exception is that he has not, as yet, embarked on a trade war against China that he advocated during his campaign. Not least as a consequence of very skillful diplomacy on the part of China, the US-China relationship has remained relatively friendly and warm, with neither trade relations nor North Korea souring the atmosphere.

But this should not mislead us into thinking that there is not a chasm between Trump’s view of the world and China’s. Where Trump rejects the idea of multilateralism and the need for multitudinous forms of global cooperation – instead advocating the jungle law of nation-states, where the writ of the strongest (the US) reigns supreme – China propounds new forms of global collaboration, as exemplified by the Belt and Road initiative, and the idea of a community of shared destiny, as the way of the future.

Ever since the beginning of the reform period it is doubtful whether the philosophies of the US and China have ever been so diametrically opposed. The two countries now speak entirely different languages and seem to occupy what could only be described as parallel universes.

It is this divergence that represents the greatest source of danger and instability in the world as we enter 2018. The US-China relationship is by far the world’s most important bilateral relationship; and it has grown even more important with China’s rise.

Development China's strongest appeal

The shift in US foreign policy under Trump has undoubtedly served to enhance interest in and support for China’s global outlook and approach. We should remember that 2017 dawned with President Xi Jinping’s speech to the Davos Summit last January.

Never before in modern history had the speech of a Chinese leader been so eagerly awaited by a global audience, not least in a Europe plunged into uncertainty about the future of the transatlantic relationship. The central tenets of his speech suddenly moved to the center of the global stage and began to assume something of a normative status and even emerge, dare one say it, as the new global common sense.

It set the tone for what became a growing tendency in 2017, namely rising global interest in what China had to say and offer.

Previously, China’s appeal had been largely confined to being a source of trade and investment, its attraction overwhelmingly economic, often almost exclusively so. 2017 saw an important and subtle shift following in the footsteps of China’s growing willingness to become a proactive player with regard to the global economy and polity.

From climate change and globalization to peace and development, China’s profile and appeal steadily grew. China could no longer be pigeon-holed as simply an economic phenomenon, but was increasingly seen as having something to say and offer on a broad range of global issues. China came to be seen by much of the world for the first time as a global power, its gravitational attraction enhanced accordingly.

Undoubtedly China’s strongest appeal is development. As a developing country, it has an intimate knowledge of the problems of development and a powerful affinity with other developing countries.

In the mid-1970s it accounted for only one-third of global GDP; today that figure stands just shy of 60 percent. The shift in the global center of gravity from the rich world to the developing world, is transforming both the global economy and the global polity. And the axis of this transformation is the relationship between China and the developing world.

The quintessential expression of this relationship is the B&R initiative, which, over the course of the last year, has made significant progress, the highlight being the B&R initiative Summit in Beijing last May. The size of the conference, combined with its representation and diversity, spoke to the novelty and timeliness of the initiative.

The B&R initiative is a metaphor for the relationship between China and the developing world. From Southeast Asia and South Asia to Central Asia, West Asia and the Middle East, and beyond that North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, not to forget Latin America, the relationship between China and developing countries is in the process of transforming the world.

Even the continent on the western edge of the Eurasian landmass, namely Europe, is slowly but steadily being drawn into the possibilities of the B&R initiative, led by its least developed part, central and eastern Europe. It will not be easy for western Europe, which has looked westwards across the Atlantic for the last three centuries rather than eastwards towards Asia, to abandon such a deeply rooted mentality but its long-term future, in terms of prosperity and influence, will surely depend on its willingness to pivot 180 degrees eastwards.

Development – together, of course, with global peace – is the message of our times. China is the leader of the former and the key to its successful dissemination across the world.

The Chinese experience cannot be copied by such a huge number of diverse countries, all of which are profoundly different from China, but the basic tools of the transformation are the same: economic growth, infrastructural investment and an activist and competent state.

The growth of a multilateral institutional framework to support development is essential and steadily taking shape. Over the last year we can point to the B&R initiative Summit, the BRICS summit in Xiamen and also the High Level Global Dialogue of Political Parties in Beijing in December, 2017. If the latter acquires a more permanent and institutionalized form, it would help to widen and deepen the network of communication, interaction, mutual learning and sharing of experiences.

Korean Peninsula crisis thorniest question facing the world in 2018

As we look forward to 2018, the thorniest question facing the world, and China in particular, is finding a peaceful resolution to the crisis in the Korean Peninsula. The alternative could lead to nuclear war and death and destruction on a scale far worse than ever witnessed before in human history.

The problem is that the US president believes that this option is a serious one and should remain on the table. It cannot and should not. The overarching strategic challenge is that posed by development. Over the last several decades, the developing world, led by China, has made enormous progress but the task ahead remains huge with global poverty still a grave problem.

Now, however, we can see the possibility of making major advances. The danger is that the world could become divided and balkanized in a manner that echoes the 1930s. We live at a time of great opportunity – and danger.

Martin Jacques is a currently a senior fellow at the Department of Politics and International Studies, Cambridge University.

Source: People's Daily

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 20:29:25 +0600
U.K. appoints a Minister for Loneliness Since Britain voted to leave the European Union more than a year ago, Europeans have mockingly said that the decision will result in an isolated, lonely island nation.

But Britain, in fact, already has a serious problem with loneliness, research has found. More than nine million people in the country often or always feel lonely, according to a 2017 report published by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.

The issue prompted Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday to appoint a minister for loneliness.

“For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life,” Mrs. May said in a statement.

“I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones — people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.”

Mark Robinson, the chief officer of Age UK, Britain’s largest charity working with older people, warned that the problem could kill.

“It’s proven to be worse for health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day, but it can be overcome and needn’t be a factor in older people’s lives,” he said.

A former United States surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review last year arguing that loneliness needed addressing in the workplace.

It can be associated, he wrote, “with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression and anxiety.”

The British report was commissioned by the Red Cross in partnership with the Co-op, a cooperative supermarket chain, and published by the Cox commission in December.

The group operates in memory of Ms. Cox, 41, a Labour Party lawmaker who was shot dead by a right-wing extremist in 2016, and who had been a prominent voice in Parliament on the issue, setting up a cross-party commission that aimed to start a national conversation and establish the scale and impact of loneliness in Britain.

The prime minister announced on Wednesday that Tracey Crouch, who is the under secretary for sport and civil society in the culture ministry, would lead a governmentwide group to build on Ms. Cox’s legacy and establish policies on the issue.

In parallel, the Office for National Statistics would help to establish a method of measuring loneliness, and a fund would be set up to help the government and charities to develop a wider strategy to identify opportunities to tackle the problem.

The Cox commission, led by the lawmakers Rachel Reeves and Seema Kennedy, said it welcomed the government’s “prompt response” to its report.

Quoting Ms. Cox, the lawmakers said in a joint statement, “Young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate.”

“Throughout 2017 we have heard from new parents, children, disabled people, carers, refugees and older people about their experience of loneliness,” they added.

Government research has found that about 200,000 older people in Britain had not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month.

Carol Jenkins, 64, a retired nurse from Berkshire, in southwest England, said she started to feel lonely when her son moved abroad and she downsized to a smaller house in a different county.

“It was a financial decision to move, and I didn’t really have it in me to start making new friends,” Ms. Jenkins recalled on Wednesday in a phone interview. “Months would go by without seeing my friends or family, and I felt really depressed and alone.”

Ms. Jenkins has since joined a Facebook group for Britons affected by loneliness, which, she says, has helped her to get out of the house more.

“It’s not so much about meeting people on the internet and making new friends, but it’s more of a motivational support network that gives you direction on how to cope and fix the problem,” she said, adding that she was surprised by how many young people had joined the group.

“There are so many university students who just lock themselves in their rooms for days because they feel rejected or that they don’t fit in,” Ms. Jenkins said. “It’s only a matter of time before loneliness turns into depression. And that’s where it gets dangerous.”

The New York Times

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 09:55:57 +0600
In the coldest village on earth, eyelashes freeze, dinner is frozen and temperatures sink to -88F In this remote outpost in Siberia, the cold is no small affair.

Eyelashes freeze; frostbite is a constant danger; and cars are usually kept running even when not being used, lest their batteries die in temperatures that average minus-58 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, according to news reports.

This is Oymyakon, a settlement of some 500 people in Russia’s Yakutia region, that has earned the reputation as the coldest permanently occupied human settlement in the world.

It is not a reputation that has been won easily. Earlier this week, a cold snap sent temperatures plunging toward record lows.

The town’s official measurement recorded the temperature at minus-74 Fahrenheit this week, though a new digital thermometer installed in town for all to see, part of the town’s reputation for frigid temperatures, broke as it registered minus-80 degrees on Sunday. According to the Siberian Times, some residents’ own measurements had shown the temperature below minus-88 degrees, approaching a former record from the 1930s.

The village recorded an all-time low of minus-98 degrees Fahrenheit in 2013.

Though schools in the area remain open as temperatures dip into the minus-40s, they were closed on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

Dark 21 hours a day in the winter, the town has been an object of international curiosity as its reputation for fearsome cold and the resilient residents who withstand it year after year, has grown.

Amos Chapple, a photojournalist from New Zealand, traveled to the region in 2015 to capture the subzero way of life. The village is remote, located closer to the Arctic Circle than to the nearest major city, some 500 miles away, and Chapple described an arduous trip to get there to The Washington Post. After a seven-hour flight from Moscow, some 3,300 miles away, he took a van to a nearby gas station and then hitched a ride to the village after two days waiting in a shack and living off reindeer soup.

“After the first couple of days I was physically wrecked just from strolling around the streets for a few hours,” he said.

Anastasia Gruzdeva, left, poses for selfie with her friends as the temperature dropped this week in Yakutsk, Russia, the capital city of Russia’s Sakha Republic, and the closest major city to Oymyakon. ( photo via AP)

The harsh cold climate permeates nearly every aspect of existence for the people who live in the area. The winter diet is mostly meat-based, sometimes eaten raw or frozen, due to the inability to grow crops in the frigid temperatures. Some regional specialties include: stroganina, which is raw, long-sliced frozen fish; reindeer meat; raw, frozen horse liver; and ice cubes of horse blood with macaroni, according to news reports.

“Yakutians love the cold food, the frozen raw Arctic fish, white salmon, whitefish, frozen raw horse liver, but they are considered to be delicacies,” local Bolot Bochkarev told the Weather Channel. “In daily life, we like eating the soup with meat. The meat is a must. It helps our health much.”

Video taken during the cold snap showed a market, open for business on the snowy tundra, frozen fish standing rigidly upright in buckets and boxes, no refrigeration needed. Customers in heavy winter clothing walked by, one with a child in tow. The narrator said it was minus-56 degrees.

“Here is the treasure,” the video’s narrator said of the whitefish used to make stroganina. He admitted he was getting a bit cold shooting the video.

“While filming the trading rows my hands froze to wild pain. And sellers stand here all day long. How do they warm themselves?” he said, according to the Siberian Times.

The village was once a stopover in the 1920s and 30s for reindeer herders who would take their flocks to a thermal spring that didn’t freeze for water. Bathrooms are mostly outhouses; the ground is too frozen for pipes. According to the Weather Channel, the ground has to be warmed with a bonfire to break into, such as for digging a grave.

According to the Siberian Times, two men died after their car stalled and they had set out on foot during the cold streak. The group, a horse breeder and four friends, had gone to check on some animals near the river.

The press office for the region’s governor said that all households and businesses have central heating and backup power generators, according to the Associated Press.

After his trip, Chapple said it was not easy doing man-on-the-street interviews in a place that was so cold, as people outside rushed quickly from one warm place to another. Alcoholism is believed to be an issue in the area, Chapple told reporters. Depending on how cold the weather dips, people often trade off 20-minute shifts when doing work outside, according to news reports.

Chapple said saliva would freeze into “needles that would prick my lips.” Shooting was no easier — his camera would constantly get too cold to shoot, he said. The steam escaping his mouth would “swirl around like cigar smoke” he told Wired, so he’d have to hold his breath so it didn’t cloud the frame. He told Wired that he shot one photo without his gloves only to find his thumb partially frozen.

The town wears its reputation on its sleeve: “The pole of the cold,” one sign says.

The Washington Post

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 09:35:27 +0600
Firefighter catches child thrown from burning building Heart-stopping footage shows the moment a firefighter caught a child thrown from the second floor balcony of a burning flat, the Independent reported.

The young girl’s father dropped her from the second floor as they escaped their apartment as flames tore through the building on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia.

She was caught by firefighter Scott Stroup and survived unscathed.

The girl was one of 12 people, including eight children, rescued from the blaze. A baby aged just months old was also thrown from the building wrapped in a blanket.

Captain Eric Jackson, of DeKalb County Fire Rescue, said: “We were catching babies like footballs, literally.”

Screaming can be heard almost constantly in the helmet camera footage, posted on social media by the local firefighters’ union.

Mr Stroup, wearing breathing apparatus, is seen catching the girl as flaming debris falls around him. He carries her away from the building before dropping to his knees and laying her on the ground.

The girl’s father, Lance Ragland, suffered second-degree burns. His newborn baby was also dropped from the building and caught by firefighter Jackie Peckrul.

he firefighter told Fox 5 Atlanta: “That was the only thing running through my mind... ‘Lord, let me catch this baby.’

“My hands came off the ladder and I got them.”

Moments later Mr Stroup caught the child’s older sibling.

“There’s no better feeling in the world,” Ms Peckrul said. “Never want to see any parent lose a child.”

No one died in the 3 January blaze but 20 flats were gutted, leaving 79 people homeless.

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 12:49:12 +0600
24-hour strike paralyzes Greek capital A 24-hour general strike brought Athens to a standstill on Monday when thousands of workers protested against a draft bill calling for reforms and austerity measures.

The draft bill voted later in the day sought key measures for the country in order to receive further funds.

Thousands of people were stranded for 24 hours after public buses, trams, trains and the metro all came to a halt.

Flights were also cancelled when air traffic controllers participated in the strike; doctors, judges and teachers also took part.

The largest public sector union ADEDY demonstrated in the morning, with thousands gathering in central Athens.

Private sector union GSEE, joined forces along the way with the Greek Communist Party-affiliated union PAME, holding a rally outside the parliament as MPs debated the controversial bill.

“The government, following a storm of anti-labor measures that have crushed the whole of Greek society, now gives its last hit to working class, pensioners and the unemployed, with a bill that has as a pre-requisite the abolition of our right to strike,” the General Confederation of Greek Workers said in a press release.

"The right to strike is a sacred conquest of the working class. It is neither abolished nor threatened by this government.

“We want bodies and trade unions to be massively, militarily and continuously active against employers' authoritarianism and any violation of labor law," Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said during the parliament debate over the multi-bill of reforms and austerity measures to be voted today.

PAME member Giorgos Kirakakopoulos, 49, said “the fight has just started, we won’t back down”.

Greece has been the recipient of three bailout deals since 2010. It has worked to avoid bankruptcy with the financial help of the International Monetary Fund, European Union, and the European Central Bank and borrowed what amounts to €260 billion ($306 billion).

The country recently reached a deal with its lenders on reforms that they must perform under its bailout program, in a hope to end the aid program by August.

In return for the money borrowed, the leftist government had to impose tax hikes, more structural reforms, as well as pension cuts that have angered austerity-hit Greeks, as well as a law to tighten the rules on calling for a strike.

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 17:10:04 +0600
NASA finds easy-to-access water all over Mars NASA and private companies like SpaceX are busy planning Mars missions, but only have a vague idea of how they're going to find critical water supplies. Now, using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), researchers have discovered abundant, easy-to-access H20. A survey found no less than eight sites where cliff erosion has exposed thick deposits of nearly pure ice that lie just three to six feet below rock and dust. The findings mean that future missions, both manned and robotic, may have an easier time than expected digging up water for drinking and making rocket fuel.

As reported in the journal Science (paywall), the water was found in both the north and south of Mars, at latitudes equivalent to South America and Scotland. The exposed areas were found on scarps as steep as 55 degrees. Based on the absence of craters in the regions, scientists believe that the features formed relatively recently.

"The discovery reported today gives us surprising windows where we can see right into these thick underground sheets of ice," study co-author Shane Byrne of the University of Arizona told NASA. "It's like having one of those ant farms where you can see through the glass on the side to learn about what's usually hidden beneath the ground."

Researchers found the scarp sites by gauging colors using the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the MRO, and confirmed its purity using CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging spectrometer for Mars). The orbiter has previously found extensive ice sheets at other locations on Mars using its Shallow Radar camera, but it was impossible to say how deep it was. Now, scientists know that it's close enough to access with relative ease.

The exposed blue material is very likely ice (NASA, JPL-Caltech, University of Arizona)

Another study had scientists concerned that the soil itself doesn't contain much water, but that may not be as much of an issue if it's abundant in ice form just below the surface. At the eight sites, there are even areas where ice water is directly exposed. "Astronauts could essentially just go there with a bucket and a shovel and get all the water they need," Byrne said.

Besides the practical aspects of water-fetching, the findings have important scientific value, too. "There is shallow ground ice under roughly a third of the Martian surface, which records the recent history of Mars," said Colin Dundas, the study's lead author. "What we've seen here are cross-sections through the ice that give us a 3D view with more detail than ever before."

For instance, Mars' climate is highly variable because, unlike the Earth, its tilt changes a lot more often. Researchers noticed variations in the color of the ice in individual scarps, suggesting that it formed differently at different times, depending on the tilt. "If you had a mission at one of these sites, sampling the layers going down the scarp, you could get a detailed climate history of Mars," said MRO project scientist Leslie Tamppari.

The finding is one of the most exciting around Mars water to date, but it's not definitive proof that massive ice blocks exist below the surface of Mars. On top of that, researchers can't tell if the water has high amounts of salts or, worse, poisonous perchlorates. However, it gives scientists a much better idea where to send future robotic missions, which could access the ice directly and tell us all we need to know.

Sat, 13 Jan 2018 18:56:15 +0600
Chinese crane driver saves passengers from sinking bus A Chinese crane driver miraculously rescues all passengers from a sinking bus in Jiangsu, China.

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 09:58:00 +0600
North and South Korea: Moving forward Bishkek, Jan.10, 2017 /Kabar/. North Korea agreed to send athletes to the Winter Olympics in South Korea next month, a symbolic breakthrough after months of escalating tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, wrote The New York Times newspaper.
The announcement was welcomed in the South, but few believe that the sudden charm offensive was motivated by Olympic spirit.
The North not only shunned the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul but also tried to disrupt the Games after talks to co-host the event failed.

Above, the North Korean delegation arrived in Panmunjom, South Korea.

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 18:12:20 +0600
Talks between North Korea, South Korea begin in border town of Panmunjom Bishkek, Jan. 9. /Kabar/. The first round of talks on normalizing relations between the Republic of Korea and the DPRK began on Tuesday morning in the border township of Panmunjom, TASS reported referring to the South Korean Foreign Ministry.

The main issue on discussion at this round of discussions, the first one since December 2015, centers around the practical steps towards improving relations between Seoul and Pyongyang and a possible participation of the DPRK team in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang.

Each country has sent a five-strong delegation. Standing at the head of the South Korean delegation is Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon. Ri Son Gwon, the chairman of the Committee for Reunification of the Fatherland, leads the North Korean delegation.

DPRK leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year address to the nation the North Korean authorities were prepared to send a team of athletes to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. South Korean President Moon Jae-in responded to it by instructing his government to begin talks with the North on a possible participation in the Games.

On Sunday, January 7, Kim Jong-un made an address to the nation where he ordered to create every condition conducive to an improvement of relations with the Republic of Korea.

"The head of state said in clear terms this country should abide by a policy that would produce a breakthrough in the sphere of reunification," the official Korean Central News Agency said. It indicated that raking up the past or over-focusing of the specificity of relations with Seoul was out of place.

Instead, it is important to improve relations between North and South, the KCNA said.

The commentary said it was high time for pooling the efforts of the entire Korean people to abate the escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, adding that the case in hand was the normalization of inter-Korean relations and, on top of that, reconciliation and voluntary reunification of the Koreans.

Source: TASS

Tue, 09 Jan 2018 09:30:26 +0600
A laptop with three days of battery life - It's coming Is this the dawn of the multi-day laptop battery?

“Always connected personal computers” — or ACPCs — refer to a new breed of Windows laptops with three key features: a battery that can last multiple days; instant-on access when you open the lid or touch a key; and an optional high-speed cellular connection, to avoid hunting for a Wi-Fi hotspot to get online.

In other words, your laptop is going to behave a lot more like your smartphone.

Qualcomm – the world’s largest smartphone chip maker — is largely spearheading this emerging category. This marks the San Diego-based company’s second foray into the computer space, after the Windows RT mobile operating system failed to catch on after it debuted in 2012.

Intel is also a major player in this space, having worked on the first cellular-supported PC back in 2005 (with Sony). It's been heavily involved in battery improvements over the past few years.

But if you believe the hype, what we’ll see debut in 2018 will be nothing like we’ve witnessed in the past.

“With computers we have today, you’re lucky if you can get 15 hours of battery performance — and in most cases, it’s 8 to 10 hours, if that – so where I see the breakthrough here is a new benchmark of 22 hours, and standby of at least a week,” says technology analyst Tim Bajarin, who also serves as president at Creative Strategies, one of the first market research firms in Silicon Valley.

In fact, with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, ASUS is claiming battery life of up to 22 hours of continuous video playback, and up to 30 days on standby.

a screen shot of a computer: Qualcomm Snapdragon powering Windows 10.

At $799, the ASUS NovaGo (model # TP370) will also be the first always-connected PC with a 360-degree flip hinge – making it a “2-in-1” that can convert from laptop mode to a tablet by bending back the 13.3-inch screen – and the first with Gigabit LTE speeds, for an always on, always connected experience.

“I’ve been using these devices for many months, and the one thing that often gets overlooked is the ‘always on’ feature,” adds Miguel Nunes, senior director of product management at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “Like your smartphone, even when the screen is off, it’s still connected, so when I open the lid, it does facial recognition, and I’m in.”

Speed boon, too

Along with multi-day battery performance, these always-on PC's take advantage of ubiquitous cellular connectivity.

“With the NovaGo, you don’t have to find a Wi-Fi hotspot, and you get fast 1 gigabyte-per-second wireless Internet speeds that are between 3 to 7 times faster than the average broadband speed,” says Randall Grilli, director of media relations at ASUS North America. “It allows you to download a 2-hour movie in about 10 seconds.”

ASUS is supporting both a nano SIM and built-in eSIM, the latter of which allows you to easily switch networks in areas that support it, says Grilli.

Cellular connectivity is optional with always-connected PCs, since the user must pay for data. Details are still scarce on provider pricing plans — ASUS says users may work directly with Microsoft on data plan activation or directly with a provider, for instance — but SIM-supported laptops haven’t been adopted by the mainstream in the past, reminds Bajarin.

“Consumers are often reluctant to pay extra money for an additional data SIM, so until we see people actually putting down dollars for connectivity, I’m not sure if that will drive ACPCs,” says Bajarin. “What will drive this is 22 hours of battery. Ultimately, the consumer wants all-day computing, even though always-connected would be a good feature, too.”

Tradeoffs? Perhaps

a close up of a device: A look at the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and circuit board.

These always-on PCs sound amazing, no doubt, between long battery life, always-on architecture, and LTE connectivity. So, what’s the catch, you ask?

Though it’s too early to know for sure, power and compatibility might not be what you’re used to with previous Windows laptops.

Intel has been trying to make PC's more mobile for six or seven years, with ultrabooks, then with 3G and LTE connectivity options — say with the LTE-supported Samsung Galaxy Book 12, with Verizon.

“First and foremost, it must be a great PC. It has to deliver performance…and PC experiences…that consumer expect,” said Josh Newman, general manager of mobile innovation segment for Intel.

Newman says when consumers take the new PC out of the box “it should just work with all the software they’re used to working – and work better than the 4- or 5-year-old PC they may be replacing – and same goes for multitasking, and peripherals, too.”

Even Qualcomm concedes it’s not going after those that demand serious horsepower. “For full disclosure, we are not a high-end gaming PC. That’s not Qualcomm,” says Nunes. “Our strength is in mobility, thin and light devices, and with Microsoft, we focused heavily focused on what people are doing with their devices.”

While ASUS and HP have confirmed support for Qualcomm’s ACPCs, and other major players will likely unveil their wares early next week at the annual tech trade show CES in Las Vegas, not everyone is onboard.

“Dell is not planning to announce any PCs with Qualcomm Snapdragon processors in the foreseeable future,” said Jay Parker, president of the client product group at Dell, in a statement provided to USA TODAY.

“We have a strong portfolio of PCs for consumer and commercial customers that deliver excellent battery life with LTE connectivity – which constitutes ‘always on’ in the customer’s mind,” says Parker. “We find that our customers don’t want to sacrifice full functionality and performance – that’s what our products deliver. The current Snapdragon processor doesn’t allow us to strike that right balance today.”

USA Today

Mon, 08 Jan 2018 09:13:18 +0600
The ‘World’s hairiest girl’ continues to surprise and inspire as she poses with ‘Love of her life’ Little Supatra Sasuphan claims being officially recognised as the hairiest girl in the world has boosted her confidence.

Supatra had been teased her entire life because of a rare genetic condition causing thick hair to grow all over her face. Two years ago she was tormented by other children calling her ‘monkey face’ and ‘wolf girl’. It often left her in tears because of strangers stopping in the street to point at her. But since then ten-year old Supatra – nicknamed Nat – has been named the ‘hairiest girl in the world’ and amazingly, her new-found fame has helped her become one of the most popular girls in her school. Supatra, from Pranakom, Thailand, says: ‘I’m very happy to be in the Guinness World Records. All I did was answer a few questions about myself and then they gave it to me.’ Supatra reveals that getting the award has boosted her confidence and she has taken up dancing, singing, and acting. She loves listening to Thai pop music and makes her own dance routines to the latest hits with her friends.

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 12:56:42 +0600
Prince Harry's wedding to Meghan Markle 'set to boost UK economy' LONDON (Reuters) - Prince Harry’s wedding to American actress Meghan Markle could provide a 500 million pound boost to Britain’s economy as tourists flock to the country and Britons celebrate, according to an estimate.

Harry, Queen Elizabeth’s grandson and fifth-in-line to the throne, will tie the knot with Markle on May 19 at Windsor Castle, the royal palace home of British kings and queens for almost 1,000 years.

There were an extra 350,000 visitors to the UK in April 2011 when Harry’s elder brother William married his wife Kate compared to the same month the previous year, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Business valuation consultancy Brand Finance predicted a similar surge in May and in total, it estimates the nuptials will generate some 500 million pounds ($680 million).

“We think approximately 200 million pounds will come from tourism, travel, hotels,” the company’s chief executive David Haigh told Reuters.

About 150 million pounds would be spent on people having parties and celebrating with 50 million coming from people buying T-shirts, hats and other commemorative items, he said.

The wedding would also be worth about 100 million pounds in free advertising for Britain around the world, he added.

Businesses in Windsor are already gearing up to take advantage of the worldwide interest in the couple, with Harry, 33, one of the most popular members of the British royal family and Markle, 36, best known for her starring role in the TV legal drama “Suits”, providing some Hollywood sparkle.

“It’s going to be a massive boost for the economy, it’s going to be great to see so many people here for the wedding and actually to host the wedding itself,” said Andrew Lee, manager of the Harte and Garter hotel opposite Windsor Castle.

Since their engagement was announced in November, Harry and Meghan merchandise has adorned the displays of Windsor’s tourist shops and mayor John Lenton said the town had been caught up in the excitement.

“We are looking forward to it and we hope it will help to improve our tourist trades,” he said.

British tourism bosses are already predicting 2018 to be a bumper year for the industry, aided by a fall in the value of the pound since the 2016 vote to leave the European Union which has attracted visitors and deterred Britons from vacationing abroad.

VisitBritain, the national tourism agency, estimates that 41.7 million visits from overseas will be made to the United Kingdom in 2018, generating 26.9 billion pounds in the process.


Thu, 04 Jan 2018 11:28:21 +0600